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>Supreme Court justices ‘participated in political strategy sessions’ before Citizens United

>Has the time finally come to appoint a special prosecutor to look into Supreme Court rulings of two justices, Scalia and Thomas for conflicts of interest and the selling of their decisions ?

After reading the following that was post over at I am beginning to think so:

On the first anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United, which overturned nearly a century of restrictions on campaign spending, a progressive group has asked the Department of Justice to look into “conflicts of interest” two justices may have had when issuing the ruling.

In a petition to be sent to the department this week, Common Cause will argue that Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas should have recused themselves from the campaign finance decision because of their involvement with Koch Industries, a corporation run by two conservative activists who many say directly benefited from Citizens United.

“It appears both justices have participated in political strategy sessions, perhaps while the case was pending, with corporate leaders whose political aims were advanced by the decision,” the letter alleges, as quoted at Politico.

The group will urge the department to disqualify Scalia and Thomas from the ruling. If that were to happen, the Supreme Court could vacate the ruling, effectively returning the campaign finance restrictions that existed until 2010. But, as Common Cause itself admits, the odds are against it.

At the center of the group’s claims is a document from Koch Industries unearthed last fall by ThinkProgress and the New York Times. In an invitation to a Palm Springs retreat to be held this month, Charles Koch boasted that previous events were attended by Scalia and Thomas.

Read more >>> Here

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Filed under Common Cause, Justice Antonin Scalia, Justice Clarence Thomas, NY Times,, Raw Story, Think Progress, U.S Supreme Court

>Health reform’s benefits kick in


Six months ago, President Barack Obama signed the new health reform legislation that will bring down health care costs for American families and small businesses, expand health coverage to an additional 32 million Americans and end the widespread abuses in the health insurance industry. The Affordable Care Act is the most groundbreaking reform of health care coverage since Medicare. It reduces the deficit by $1.2 trillion in the next 20 years, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

Americans are already benefiting from several important provisions that have taken effect. More than 4 million small businesses are eligible for $40 billion in tax credits, helping them offer employee health insurance coverage. Children with pre-existing conditions who have long been denied coverage now have access to a health plan in every state, including Maryland. Seniors in the Medicare Part D program are now receiving an annual supplement of $250 as the first installment toward closing the notorious “doughnut hole.” No longer will seniors be forced to choose between food or heat and lifesaving medications. Early retirees are also benefiting, because the program helps employers continue their health coverage.

This week, some crucial health care consumer protections begin. This new Patients’ Bill of Rights helps Americans obtain better care, lower their costs and improve their health coverage security.

Health insurance companies will no longer be able to drop people’s coverage when they get sick and need health care the most. Young adults — the largest population of uninsured Americans before passage of this law — can now remain on their parents’ health insurance plan until their 26th birthday. Health plans can no longer impose lifetime limits on coverage, and annual limits are to be phased out over three years — a dramatic change for families, because more than 60 percent of people who declared bankruptcy in 2007 cited medical bills as a reason, and medical costs have only increased since.

Over time, the Affordable Care Act will prohibit insurance companies from denying anyone coverage based on pre-existing conditions, create insurance exchanges so that Americans have the same health plan choices as members of Congress and implement the biggest tax cut for health care in U.S. history to ensure that middle-class families can afford insurance. The new law puts Americans, not the health insurance companies, in charge of their own health care.

Unfortunately, Washington Republicans want to repeal the law and take away these important consumer protections and benefits. Under their plan, things would grow worse and the deficit would increase. The CBO found that the Republicans’ plan would increase the number of uninsured to 52 million — higher than today.

The Republican plan would also make coverage unaffordable for millions of Americans, eliminate tax credits that help people cover their premiums and remove assistance to small businesses that offer coverage for their employees.

I am proud that these reforms, enacted by Congress, are helping make a difference in Americans’ lives today, and I am committed to ensuring the legislation is implemented successfully.

To learn more about these provisions and other ways that health reform will help you, please visit

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) serves as assistant to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and is chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

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Filed under health care reform,, President Obama, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, The Affordable Care Act

Raw Story Exclusive: ‘Ellie Light’ regrets damage done to Obama, blasts right-wing ‘conspiracy theorists’

WASHINGTON — In an interview with Raw Story, prolific Obama supporter and letter-writer “Ellie Light” slammed conservatives claiming the published writings were part of a White House “astroturf” operation, and regretted the “damage” they’ve done to the president.

The interview was conducted before the Cleveland Plain Dealer revealed that the deep, husky-voiced “woman” publicly calling herself “Ellie Light” was actually a man named Winston Steward. Most initially believed he was a woman, probably due to his mannerisms and tone, including this reporter.

Steward, 51, is a traveling health care worker based in Frazier Park, California. He admitted to being the author of letters published in dozens of newspapers across the country — sent with fake addresses from a variety of locations — under the name “Ellie Light.”

“The damage has been done,” Steward told Raw Story, “with blog posts and YouTube videos. I don’t think anything can undo that.”

He ripped conservatives for their unsubstantiated allegations about his ostensible affiliations with the White House.

hey are conspiracy theorists, there’s no doubt. Apparently I’m a space alien, that’s the newest thing on one Web site, so it just goes on and on. The Michelle Malkin people — they’re clowns. We know they’re clowns.”

Steward’s alias, Ellie Light, became the subject of widespread conservative fascination after one letter he wrote in defense of President Obama, first published by Politico’s Ben Smith, subsequently appeared in dozens of newspapers across the country.

The story about his letter’s numerous appearances with different addresses was first broken on Friday, January 22 by Sabrina Eaton of The Plain Dealer newspaper before catching the attention of conservative Web sites such as Michelle Malkin’s blog, Patterico’s Pontifications and the National Review.

Following allegations that he wasn’t a real person and merely a ghost-name for an Obama official, Steward posed as a woman and claimed his name was “Ellie Light” in a radio interview on Tuesday, claiming that name was real but admitting he was “wrong” for “giving false address” while submitting the letter to various regional newspapers.

A flurry of conservative bloggers have since suggested — and outright accused — Steward of being an Obama administration plant. Many of them, including Michelle Malkin, declared he was part of White House “astroturf” activities to deceptively burnish its credentials.

He told Raw Story he believed the whole issue had been blown far out of proportion.

No evidence has been unearthed linking Steward to the Obama administration or the Democratic Party. He said he is not and has never been a activist for a political advocacy group.

“Affiliated with an organized group? No,” he said bluntly. “I’ve never been affiliated with anyone like that.”

Steward, who for a brief period after Obama got elected wrote diaries for the Daily Kos, said he hopes people will take the time to understand the situation rather than jump to conclusions.

“For those who pay attention a little longer, it could end up being good, but for the people who are only going to pay attention for the ‘Balloon Boy’ period it’ll be ‘oh, another one of those Obama things’.”

He said if he could go back in time, he “probably would have written the letter and told them all I was in the Los Angeles area.”

Criticizes Democrats: ‘not as loyal’ as Republicans

Steward declined to criticize Obama, calling him “the most remarkable elected official,” and criticized Democrats and progressives for allegedly wanting instant gratification of their wishes.

“Democrats have abandoned the president that they practically worshiped such a short time ago because he couldn’t tend to their needs in the first twelve months of office. And they’re behaving like a bunch of babies,” he said.

“They need to show that there’s a groundswell of support for the president so that the yahoos have nothing to talk about.”

Though he accepted that there are genuine critics of Obama on the left, he criticized Democrats for not being as loyal to Obama as Republicans were to former President George W. Bush.

“Think about the Republicans that had to suck it in in 2003 and 2004 when Bush was caught lying over and over and over again,” he said. “All the Republicans stood there and said ‘the president has his reasons, we trust the president.'”

“And we laughed at them, because they were all liars. But at least they were loyal.”

Steward said he will continue writing letters to newspapers in support of Obama and hoped more Democrats will do the same.

(Editor’s Note: Article originally confused Winston Steward’s last name. Thanks to the multiple readers who noticed the mistake. Raw Story regrets the error, and hopes Eric Arthur Blair’s estate will not mind.)

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Filed under Cleveland Plain Dealer, Daily Kos, Democrat, Ellie Light, health care reform, National Review,, President Obama, Raw Story, Republicans, Winston Steward

The GOP’s governor problem

By: Nathan Daschle

Kevin Bacon’s opening argument in “A Few Good Men,” the 1992 movie about the fictional prosecution of two Marines charged with murder, is a shining moment in the history of Hollywood. After rattling off a series of statements that, if true, would appear to doom the defendants, Bacon places his argument in the seemingly unbreakable frame: “These are the facts of the case. And they are undisputed.” Set aside for a moment that Bacon ended up losing the trial, the oratory is a reminder of the raw power of simple facts.

Recent political news has been dominated by the Massachusetts Senate race and its meaning for the Democratic Party. Buried by the coverage, however, is a bit of bad news for the GOP. The government released the December jobs report, and once again, four of the five states with the highest rates of unemployment were those with Republican governors, the self-proclaimed leaders of the so-called GOP Comeback.

Taken in isolation, that fact might seem trivial, like hundreds of other talking points that make their way around Washington on a regular basis. But this one is different because it’s part of a larger trend: Republican governors, as a whole, vastly underperform their Democratic counterparts on virtually every economic or fiscal score. In addition to high unemployment numbers, states with Republican governors are far less likely to be on the Forbes list of “Best States for Business” (only one of the Top 5 has a Republican governor), score a AAA rating from the major credit rating agencies (only two of the seven have GOP governors) or make a real investment in clean technology (only two of the Top 10 clean-tech states have Republican governors).

Perhaps most telling, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, is that throughout the past decade, the size of state governments actually grew more under Republican governors than under Democratic ones. This is true for both traditional ways of measuring the size of government: spending growth and the number of state employees.

These are the facts. And they are undisputed.

These facts are important because they give us an indication of what a “GOP Comeback” would actually look like. We can’t look to the epically vapid congressional Republicans sitting in the cheap seats, because they are enjoying the relief of any obligation to come up with an affirmative plan for this country. While we could look to our former president — whom a real-life Bacon would already have convicted on charges of fiscal negligence — voters are tired of hearing about him. Thus, the only relevant data set is the records of Republican governors.

And while the party seems bent on burying these records, the facts are tough to hide. When Republicans are in charge, government is more likely to grow, investors are less likely to have confidence and people are more likely to lose jobs. This is the record of a party in which dogma and rhetoric continue to trump people and results.

Governors are the weak spot for the GOP, not because they are different from the rest of the party, but because they don’t have their congressional brethren’s privilege of inaction. The governors’ recklessness is a matter of public record, a record replete with indisputable facts that impugn the national party’s efforts to portray itself as ready to assume authority. Voters interested in making a comparison this fall ought to ask the GOP how it would be different than the record of its governors, though I doubt the party can handle the truth.

Nathan Daschle is executive director of the Democratic Governors Association.

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Filed under Democratic Party, GOP Comeback, GOP Governors, Nathan Daschle,, undisputed facts

Obama Takes On the GOP Retreat

He came, He spoke, He conquered…President Obama attended today’s Congressional GOP Retreat outside of Baltimore and by all accounts kicked-ass!

The entire ass-whopping was broadcast live on all of the major cable news networks and C-Span. Evidently the beating Obama was placing on the GOP was so brutal that Fox News broke away early from so that they could show a non-news interview with NY Congressman Peter King, while other networks stayed till the end of the 1.5 hour confrontation.

It will be hard for the GOP to get up off the canvass after this one, score this a big knock-out by the President.
Here’s a little bit of what Politico had to say about it:

BALTIMORE — President Barack Obama on Friday accused Republicans of portraying health care reform as a “Bolshevik plot” and telling their constituents that he’s “doing all kinds of crazy stuff that’s going to destroy America.”

Speaking to House Republicans at their annual policy retreat here, Obama said that over-the-top GOP attacks on him and his agenda have made it virtually impossible for Republicans to address the nation’s problems in a bipartisan way.

“What happens is that you guys don’t have a lot of room to negotiate with me,” Obama said. “The fact of the matter is, many of you, if you voted with the administration on something, are politically vulnerable with your own base, with your own party because what you’ve been telling your constituents is, ‘This guy’s doing all kinds of crazy stuff that’s going to destroy America.’ ”

Obama’s comments came in the midst of an extraordinary back-and-forth with Republican House members — a scene straight out of the House of Commons that played out live on cable TV.

Republicans invited Obama to appear at their annual conference; the president accepted — and then surprised them by asking that cameras and reporters be allowed into the room.
Republicans immediately agreed to the request, but they may be regretting it now.
Again and again, Obama turned the Republicans questions against them — accusing them of obstructing legislation for political purposes and offering solutions that won’t work….

You can read the rest >>>Here

You can watch the whole confrontation below from C-Span if you wish.

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Filed under Baltimore Maryland, C-Span, Fox News,, President Obama, republican retreat

Lessons Learned By Governors Races

The following commentary was published on Politico this past Friday and was written by DGA Executive Director Nathan Daschle. It’s an interesting take on what the results of last Tuesday’s election really means for New Jersey and Virginia as well as, the rest of the Democratic Party in general.

Spend enough time in politics, and you will have your share of good election nights and bad election nights. The key to surviving the bad is learning from the results without dwelling on them; look forward, not backward.

Reflecting on Tuesday’s elections, I am disappointed, but not discouraged. The losses came from two electorates with an affinity for demonstrating their independence from the White House. For 24 and 36 years straight, New Jersey and Virginia, respectively, have elected governors of the opposite party of the president. Couple that streak with the worst recession since the Great Depression, and it would have been an unprecedented upset if we had won either of these races.

Democrats need to sift through the data, analyze it, and pull out lessons that are instructive for moving forward. At the same time, it would be a costly mistake to simply assume that the Republicans’ talking points about this election are valid. There are several things that Tuesday night’s results do NOT mean:

1. They do not signal that a Republican “comeback” is imminent. Virginia and New Jersey have gone against the White House for 24 straight years. Unless there’s been some under-the-radar comeback every four years since 1985, there is no more indication of Republican resurgence today than there was last week.

2. They do not indicate that President Obama has been politically weakened. Exit polls indicate (and common sense shows) that these were isolated races that, while subject to historical trends, were not a referendum on our president.

3. They do not mean that Democrats are in trouble in 2010. To the contrary, we found some encouraging evidence in the exit polls. In New Jersey, for example, voters embraced Gov. Jon Corzine’s agenda on the economy by a 58-36 margin. He was defeated because other local issues superseded his economic agenda, but we are encouraged that voters preferred our economic message to the Republicans’ attempt to return to economic policies that put Wall Street ahead of Main Street.

There are, however, some important lessons that Democrats should take to heart:

1. Democrats still carry a burden of proof with independents and surge voters. These voters don’t want to let Republicans give tax breaks to the wealthy while working families struggle, but our incumbent governors and challengers need to underscore how they’re creating and saving jobs. There’s no question that Democrats have the right vision and plans for restoring prosperity to this country – our charge is to get our message out and, for incumbents, show results.

2. While Republicans with no solutions will continue to use federal issues as red herrings in state races, we must show at the national level that we can govern. The American people expect results. They need to see how they’re better off with Democrats in charge. I am confident that we’ll make significant progress on health reform and the economy. And in the meantime, our gubernatorial candidates must know that when their opponents try to box them in on federal issues, it’s because they have no ideas on the issues that matter.

3. The Republican Party is in disarray and not remotely ready to lead. If this year taught us anything about the other side, it’s that they remain a house divided. Who are their leaders – Michael Steele, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin? What do they stand for? Bob McDonnell is a conservative who campaigned as a moderate. Chris Christie won despite himself; certainly not because of a compelling philosophy or agenda. In NY-23, the GOP civil war was on full display. A party still groping for an identity won’t attract voters to put them over the finish line.

Tuesday night was the opening battle; now starts the war. We have 37 races next year, including contests in marquee states like California and Florida. Fortunately, Democrats are well-prepared for the fight to come. In part, this is because we used our resources effectively this year: the DGA made record investments in both New Jersey and Virginia, but we resisted pressure to overspend and draw down our 2010 account.

More importantly, however, we are prepared because we have placed Tuesday in the appropriate context; the results are instructive but not foreboding. Democrats have a lot to accomplish, and so long as we continue to advance our agenda and get real results, voters will keep us in power.

Nathan Daschle is executive director of the Democratic Governors Association.


Filed under Democratic Governors Association, Nathan Daschle,

GOP Salivating for New Jersey Governorship

By ANDY BARR- Politico

With New Jersey Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine lagging in the polls, Republicans couldn’t be more enthusiastic about their chances of ousting him in November.

But first they must settle an intraparty conflict over who’s best suited to do the job — former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie or former Bogota, N.J., Mayor Steve Lonegan. Assemblyman Rick Merkt is also contending for the nomination in Tuesday’s GOP gubernatorial primary, though he trails by wide margins in the polls.

The contest pits two wings of the Republican Party against each other, with Christie widely viewed as the moderate conservative with more general election appeal in a Democratic state like New Jersey and Lonegan framed as the more orthodox conservative.

Corzine trailed both GOP candidates, according to a Research 2000/Daily Kos poll released Thursday, with Christie leading the incumbent Democrat 46 percent to 39 percent, with 15 percent undecided. Lonegan held a 3 percentage-point lead over the governor, 43 percent to 40 percent, with 17 percent undecided.

According to the poll, Corzine’s favorability rating is just 36 percent, compared with 55 percent who view him unfavorably. Nine percent had no opinion.

In the GOP gubernatorial contest, most polls show Christie leading Lonegan by around 20 percentage points. A May 20 Quinnipiac University poll gave Christie a 56-to-33-point lead.

“It’s pretty obvious that it is going to be Christie vs. Corzine,” said Quinnipiac pollster Clay Richards. “There was a little doubt for a while that Christie just didn’t seem to be catching fire, but in the last few weeks, he definitely has and Lonegan has not.”

Christie has been aided in his run by the support of several prominent national Republicans and is seen as having the support of the national party establishment. Former GOP presidential candidates Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani and Steve Forbes have spent significant time on the stump with Christie and aided the former federal prosecutor in fundraising.

In his endorsement, Romney praised Christie as “a strong conservative voice for balanced budgets, low taxes and more jobs.”

Lonegan has sought to turn Christie’s establishment support against him by questioning Christie’s willingness to let moderate Republicans from outside the state speak on his behalf.

When asked about the endorsements Christie has gotten from popular Republican figures, Lonegan strategist Rick Shaftan quickly interjected, “You mean all these moderate Republicans helping Chris Christie?”

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Filed under Chris Christie, Congressional Democrats, Gov. Jon Corzine, Mitt Romney, New Jersey,, primary election, Republicans, Rudy Giuliani, Steve Forbes, Steve Lonegan